The first time I visited the USA, I was 19. Alice and I headed with great excitement to San Francisco, where we marvelled at the Pacific, the hills and the residents, made a lot of Sex and the City References, and were generally amazed at how the America of pop-cultural exports both did and did not appear to actually exist.
In a bookstore––I think it may have been on Haight Street–I picked up a copy of Bitch magazine. I had never seen anything like this before; a magazine that was all critical cultural analysis, that was outspokenly feminist, that took apart the gender and race and class politics of TV and film and all the rest. I was a latecomer to the world of the internet, and wouldn’t have regular access from home for another couple of years; I didn’t have any way of getting more. I took that issue home, and I read it to death. I was learning feminist theory at university, but I was only stumblingly beginning to understand the cultural politics of my own life; although the examples were foreign (that exoticism was, of course, part of the appeal), Bitch showed my how to do that. When I moved to the US to spend the following year as an exchange student at Berkeley, one of the first things I did was become a subscriber.
Now Bitch is in trouble, and needs a lot of money to get their next issue out. It’s true that there are plenty of online sources for the kind of critique that it offers, but I am horrified by the idea that this vital set of takes on popular culture might disappear from the newsstands where people like my former self could stumble across it. As a more advanced student of feminisms I am as likely to disagree with the articles there as I am to be inspired by them, but Bitch itself had a huge hand in educating me to a point where I can have that kind of nuanced analysis. I still find out new things from the magazine every quarter, and read articles on subjects about which I would probably never have clicked through to a blog entry.
(And consider checking out Make/shift too, while your mind is on feminist independent publications.)
- Transformative Works and Cultures, Issue One!
- TWC issue 2: call for papers